The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Around the World in Eleven Courses

Posted on | March 29, 2010 | Written by Chris Deas | 2 Comments

One of the great pleasures in working in wine is meeting the enthusiasts and collectors whose passions are equal, or perhaps even greater, than my own. Their excitement for both the history and the experience of wine is both contagious and enlightening, and it’s sharing in these people’s enjoyment that keeps people like me creative and motivated.

For the second year in a row, Chef Kevin Sippel and I had the pleasure of creating a Valentine’s Day Wine list and menu for an IWM favorite, Omar and Leslie Khan.  Together we came up with “Around the World in Eleven Courses,” a light-hearted culinary journey across to the globe that traversed some of the world’s favorite wine regions, as well as some off-the-beaten-path destinations.  Each course invited our guests to experience a different grape, winemaker, dish and story that all worked together to highlight what makes each region so unique.  As Omar pointed out to me, each of the chosen eleven wines on a different evening could be a centerpiece in its own right.  Looking back on the night, I’d highlight the 1966 Chateau Musar from the Bekaa Valley, which offered layers of complexity and very much held its own against the 1966 Leoville Las Cases. Then there was the Weinert Malbec Estrella 1977, which challenges everything you thought you know about Argentinean Malbec (aged 19 years in oak cask).

This was truly an evening of the esoteric to the iconic, and to do it justice, I thought I would share the words and review from one of our special guests:

This entry was written by Omar Khan, posted on February 20, 2010 on his blog.

Well, we enjoy Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, so this year, as Valentine’s Day was falling on Sunday, we opted to have our amorous outing on the “eve.”

Many pooh-pooh this holiday calling it commercially contrived, historically dubious (as if our other holidays aren’t?) and more.

It’s irrelevant. It’s a day to focus on love, and you don’t have to succumb to an orgy of candy purchases to express one of our deepest sentiments. And you can be as extravagant, as imaginative, or as corny as you like. You have license. We are “excused.” After all, there’s an “official” day to blame!

We went back to our favorite spot for Valentine’s and much else: the Italian Wine Merchants, pioneers in Italian wine appreciation in the United States, and one of the primary conduits and channels for extraordinary wine of irreproachable provenance overall.

We had the lovely space to ourselves. We were surrounded by masterful chefs putting their show kitchen to the best possible use, and were “serenaded” (oenophilically) by Italian Wine Merchants’ Vice-President and a masterful commentator on the joys of the grape, Chris Deas.

Together he and Chef Kevin Sippel (a true culinary innovator), formerly of Alto, took us “Around the World in Eleven Courses.” Not quite around the world perhaps, but the circumnavigation was quite extensive. This could as easily have been called “Around the World in Eleven Wines.” But why quibble? Both are implied, and both were experienced.

Menu highlights included the palate puckering Paccheri Verdi, Braised Snails and Gorgonzola; one of the last orchestrations of Didier Dagueneau via his masterful Pouilly-Fume Silex 2006 enhanced and enchanted this remarkable dish.

Another menu highlight was the crispy sweetbread, manchego and toasted allioli, married exquisitely and tantalizingly with Descendientes de Jose Palacios Corullon La Faraona 2006. From one of the best vineyard sites in Bierzo Spain, La Faraona is the gem of Alvaro Palacios’ (of Priorat fame) art in this region. Only 65 cases are produced annually, and other than the Italian Wine Merchants, this exceptional wine isn’t available anywhere else in the United States.

Hot on the heels of this came another winner! A hen egg cooked slowly for two hours, and then lightly fried, with Serrano ham and baked sardine! Extraordinary!

A number of amazing wines, from Gaja Sperss 1998 to La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 1995, all could have been the centerpieces in a lesser dinner.

But for us the 1977 Bodega Malbec from Mendoza Argentina showed us a style of Malbec we almost can’t experience any more because of the unsettling “globalization” of wine tastes. The two “birth year” wines for my wife and I, the Leoville Las Cases (one of fifteen second growths in Bordeaux and one of our favorites) 1966 (a vintage that seems among the better Bordeaux to be drinking quite beautifully now) and the beyond rare 1966 Chateau Musar from Lebanon (slightly sweet herb-like aromas, elegant, a bit more Burgundian), were luscious, fitting and truly memorable.

We went home with a lovely Pinot to accompany artisanal chocolates, a dozen red roses (a “classic” rather than a “cliché,” though many people can’t tell the two apart), and memories we will savor and which will reverberate happily for years to come.

James Thurber once opined, “Love is what you’ve been through with someone.” Most people take that to mean what you’ve survived together. Well, partially that’s so. But it’s as much what you’ve experienced together, exulted in together, and celebrated together! Salute!


Selection of Raw Fish, Oysters and Caviar
Jacques Selosse Champagne Brut Initial NV

Paccheri Verdi, Braised Snails and Gorgonzola
Didier Dagnueneau Pouilly Fume Silex 2006

Grilled Sepia with Sea Urchin
Movia Lunar 2007

Crispy Sweetbread, Tomato, Manchego and Toasted Allioli
Descendientes de Jose Palacios Corrullon La Faraona 2006

Frog Leg Risotto with Veal Reduction and Leeks
Gaja Sperss 1998

Fried Egg, Serrano Ham and Poached Sardine
La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Riserva ‘890′ 1995

Crudo of Veal with Hot Bone Marrow, Pancetta and Pecorino Fondue
Fontodi Flaccianello 1995

Smoked Venison with White Polenta, Chorizo and Porcini Mushrooms
Bodega y Cavas de Weinert Malbec Estrella 1977

Foie Gras Tortellini in Black Truffle Consomme with Offal
Chateau Leoville-Las Cases Bordeaux 2nd Growth 1966

Rack of Lamb with Controne Bean, Pickled Eggplant and Lamb’s Tongue
Chateau Musar Rouge 1966

Chocolate Cake and Bombolini
Antonio Ferrari Solaria Jonica 1959


2 Responses to “Around the World in Eleven Courses”

  1. perry
    April 1st, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

    Hey Omar/Chris-that was one great and unique wine list!! thats the way to celebrate valentine day or any special day for that matter…you won’t see a group of wine together at one table again too soon…I’m happy that you had a good time. p

  2. pharmacy technician work
    April 26th, 2010 @ 2:07 am

    nice post. thanks.

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